Installation of this ground mounted array of solar panels was completed July 14 by Missouri Sun Solar at Grace Manufacturing in Plato. The array is a total of 42,000 watts, consists of 168 solar panels, and is designed to meet the entire electrical demand at the facility and annually produce in excess of 50,000 kilowatt hours of power. Missouri Sun Solar officials figure the system will save Grace more than 15,000 over the next 25 years.

In only its first full year in existence, Houston-based Missouri Sun Solar has been recognized as one of the top solar power companies in the U.S. by a leading industry magazine.

In the July 2014 issue of Solar Power World magazine, Missouri Sun Solar was ranked 146th in the monthly publication’s annual Top 400 Solar Contractors, a list based on production and “influence” in 2013. Missouri Sun Solar was founded in May 2012 by CEO Caleb Arthur of Houston.

“Solar Power World is always talking about what’s driving solar and what’s the newest thing in solar,” Arthur said. “It’s kind of the go-to source for news and information in solar.”

While the Top 400 list takes into account sales and installation of both commercial and residential solar power systems (and therefore includes giant utility-scale firms that put up 600-acre solar farms for large manufacturing companies and the like), in residential-only production Missouri Sun Solar was ranked 52nd in the U.S. and No. 1 in Missouri.

“I think this ranking sets us apart from where we were two years ago – kind of a mom and pop outfit trying to figure out the market and get our feet wet – to where we are now with managers over specific departments and operational things,” Arthur said. “It used to be that one person could do five or six different things, now it’s hard for one person to do one of those things and keep it straight.”

In the beginning, Missouri Sun Solar was Arthur, his brother Luke Arthur (the company’s current CFO) and their friend and colleague Adam Stipanovich (now operations manager). Now Missouri Sun Solar employs some 30 people.

“We went from me, Luke and Adam doing the same things daily to having to prioritize, strategize and organize what each of us has to do,” Arthur said. 

Arthur said his company’s success is in large part due to focusing on educating the public about solar energy in rural areas like Texas County.

“It’s right for how we want to evolve the education side of solar,” he said. “And the proper way to do that is to help non-profit organizations, schools and other places where you can sit down and show people what can really happen.

“But you also just do a lot of homes, and from that you get referrals. Ninety percent of solar sold in the United States comes from referrals by people who already have solar.”

Missouri Sun Solar’s ranking of No. 52 in the nation in the residential category stemmed from installation in 2013 of equipment delivering 2.3 megawatts (one megawatt equals a million watts). Arthur said a typical solar panel is rated at 250 watts, so that translates to about 9,200 panels installed.

Missouri Sun Solar has installed 4.3 million megawatts worth of gear in since its inception.

Based on savings on electricity bills (or complete elimination of them), Arthur said the time to go solar is no longer in the future for the average family in a place like Huggins or Tyrone.

“It’s here now,” he said. “Our biggest hurdle is still getting people to realize that. Many people see solar as the new laptop, when next year’s laptop might be half as expensive and twice as fast. But in reality, it’s the opposite in the solar industry. The prices have come down significantly in the past few years, but it’s at rock-bottom now.”

Arthur said the price of solar energy is now low enough that traditional power is no longer more affordable.

“Utility prices keep going up, and as solar prices kept going down, we passed a point where what’s called ‘grid parity’ was reached and you could actually invest in solar and make your own energy cheaper than you can buy it from your existing grid,” he said.

In February of this year, Arthur was named to the board of directors for the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association (MOSEIA), and was promptly elected vice president by other members. MOSEIA is an organization made up of people in the solar industry whose mission is to “strengthen and expand the solar industry and establish a sustainable energy future” in the state, and Arthur frequently travels and speaks on behalf of that mission.

Arthur said solar companies actually benefit traditional utility companies because homes and businesses that utilize solar power can actually feed electricity onto the grid.

“Every solar install we do benefits the local utility companies,” he said. “We’re about trying to help each other out. Utility companies spend extra money during peak load times, and solar offsets those peak times. So we like to think of ourselves as being able to save other utility customers money by making their utility company more efficient by helping with those peak loads.

“We work closely with Intercounty and the other co-ops, and the city municipalities. We all have to work together to make this happen. You have to support your local utility companies – they’re here for an important reason, otherwise you would still be hand-turning everything and you wouldn’t have a refrigerator. I want people to support their co-op in a positive manner and say, ‘we love our co-op, but we would like to see them support solar more.’ That’s the way to do it – not say ‘I’m going to go solar and leave my utility company,’ but to go solar to help the utility company and help others understand how it benefits the utility company.

“We’re not trying to put these utility companies out of business, we’re just trying to help them figure out what they’re going to do when they can’t burn coal anymore.”

In addition to its headquarters in U.S. 63 south of Houston, Missouri Sun Solar has an office in Ellisville (in the St. Louis metro area) and opened a third earlier this month in Springfield. Arthur said plans are in place to expand outside Missouri, with out-of-state operations beginning as soon as later this year.

“We’re looking at opening an office on the East Coast,” he said. “We’re now working through paperwork and getting licensing.”

Arthur loves working with his company’s Facebook page, which last week topped the 8,000 mark in “likes.” He enjoys answering questions from people curious about solar, and finds it an effective way to get the word out about his quickly growing company.

“When I first started it, I got to 6-or-700 likes and I was very excited that that many people would look at it and engage with it,” he said. “Now I might post a photo and it gets 600 likes – it’s crazy.

“I can see why people get addicted to Facebook, but I am for a different reason: Because it’s the way I can still be personable with people – one-on-one, you know?”

We’re not trying to put these utility companies out of business, we’re just trying to help them figure out what they’re going to do when they can’t burn coal anymore.”

To learn more about Missouri Sun Solar, log onto www.missourisunsolar.com or call 417-413-1786.

Missouri Sun Solar can also be found on Facebook (on a page that currently has more than 8,000 “likes”).

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